Justice closes bars in Monongalia County in hopes of slowing virus spread

Governor Jim Justice closed all the bars in Monongalia County for ten days starting at midnight last night. The move comes after a spike in Covid-19 cases, which the Governor and health officials believe is linked to the bars.

The number of positive cases in Monongalia County now makes up one-fourth of all the cases in the entire state.

“It’s a real hot spot,” Justice said of Monongalia County during his briefing yesterday, with cases among young people growing “at an alarming rate.” Statewide, just 23 percent of positive cases are in the 20-29 age group, but in Monongalia County the percentage is more than twice that.

Under the Governor’s order, restaurants with bars can still serve liquor, but the bars themselves will be closed for patrons with the hope that the infection rate begins to level off.

Health officials across the country, especially in states seeing a rise in cases, have cited taverns as common sources of the spread.

“People almost don’t want to social distance if they go to a bar,” Dr. Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins University Health Center told Kaiser Health News. “They’re going to be drinking alcohol, which is a social lubricant.  People will often be loud, and if they have forceful speech, that’s going to create more droplets.”

Combine those conditions with a feeling of imperviousness that often goes with youth and you have the perfect recipe for community spread.

Keep in mind Monongalia is seeing a spike even before thousands of students return to the WVU campus in a few weeks. The University is trying desperately to put in place measures that will reduce virus threat, but so much is out of the school’s control.

What happens after class and on weekends?  The University downplays its party image, but there have been plenty of instances over the years where alcohol-fueled parties get out of control.  In February 2019, Morgantown Police had to use tear gas to break up a riot involving hundreds of students after classes were canceled because of snow.

Meanwhile, there is a problem at the other end of the spectrum.  Justice showed a picture of a church service in Marion County where there was no social distancing, and no one was wearing a mask.   He again called on West Virginians to follow health advisories at church.  “It’s only the smart thing to do,” he said.

The Governor also re-imposed the 25 person limit on crowd size.  It had been raised to 100.  “We’re going the wrong way and we’ve got to get this thing turned around,” he said.

Justice is right, but there is only so much the government and health officials can do and say.  At some point people must take personal responsibility, not only for their own health, but also for the health of others they come in contact with.


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